After months of debate and intense support from some EPC members and alumni, as well as the community at large, the county’s waste management board voted to ban plastic shopping bags at most stores in San Luis Obispo County. Paper bags (with at least 40% post-consumer content and no old-growth wood) will still be available but at a cost of at least 10 cents a bag. San Luis Obispo will be among the first of a dozen or so California counties/cities to enact such a ban after the failed state-wide AB 1998 bill. San Luis Obispo has always been a progressive community being one of the first to have such forward thinking smoking bans, drive-through, and now single use plastic-bags.
Opponents of the ordinance immediately said they would challenge it in court. The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition said after the meeting that it would file a lawsuit within 30 days. The coalition served a “threat of litigation” to the board.
Proponents of the ban argued that discarded plastic has become ubiquitous and does incalculable damage.
They said many marine mammals and seabirds die from plastic ingestion or entanglement from littered bags, and Wednesday some of the dozens of people who turned out to support the ordinance illustrated their assertions with slides showing suffering wildlife and polluted shorelines.
Others said it would create inconvenience for shoppers.
A few critics also said it creates a new threat: food-borne or other illnesses caused by improper use of the reusable cloth bags that some shoppers would use to replace the plastic bags.
They asserted that cloth bags have been known to harbor bacteria from leaking foods or food residue, or harbor molds if they aren’t washed after each use.
photo credit: Joe Johnston